5 key matchups to watch when the Eagles battle the Dolphins

Eagles
Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts (1) looks to throw during the first half of an NFL football game against the Washington Commanders on Sunday, Oct. 1, 2023, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

It’s not panic time just yet for the Philadelphia Eagles but coming off their first loss of the season isn’t a simple task with the Miami Dolphins coming to town.

Miami’s high-powered offense is on a historical pace at this time and league the league in points per game. While Philadelphia’s offense is no slouch, Nick Sirianni’s team will need to put forth a complete game plan to have any chance of beating a strong team like this one.

With any game, some matchups could decide the outcome on Sunday night. Let’s take a look at the biggest ones here.

Eagles defensive line vs. Tua Tagovailoa

Eagles
PHILADELPHIA, PA – OCTOBER 30: Philadelphia Eagles defensive tackle Jordan Davis (90) rushes during the game between the Pittsburg Steelers and the Philadelphia Eagles on October 30, 2022 at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, PA. (Photo by Andy Lewis/Icon Sportswire)

There’s a reason Tua is considered an MVP candidate at this time. At 5-1, the Dolphins have overwhelmed opponents on offense through several different ways. Arguably the most impressive though has been the effectiveness of the offensive line.

The Dolphins are giving up the least amount of pressure to their quarterback through six weeks – a fact that is greatly helped by Tua getting rid of the ball at a much faster rate than people are anticipating. That leaves Philadelphia’s vaunted pass rush in a bind.

With their secondary battered, the Eagles need to find a way to get quick and effective pressure on Tua to throw him off his timing routes. Part of that will be on the secondary to take away his first read, but if Philly can’t get any sort of pressure on an offensive line that has surprised a lot of people so far this year, it could be a long day for the home team.

Darius Slay and James Bradberry vs. Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle

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Miami Dolphins wide receiver Tyreek Hill (10) runs a play during the first half of an NFL football game against the Baltimore Ravens, Sunday, Sept. 18, 2022, in Baltimore. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

Slay is expected back after missing the Jets game last week. What a week to come back to though.

Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle are considered one of the top receiver duos in the league today, and a big reason for Miami’s historic offensive output so far this season. For Philly to win, their top corners have to win on the outside and bring Miami’s receivers down quickly. Any chance they get for large amounts of YAC, the worse it could be for this defense that is still dealing with some injuries.

This isn’t a very good matchup overall on the outside, but if Slay and Bradberry could have big games, the Eagles could be in a good spot.

Eagles Offensive Line vs. Dolphins front seven

Eagles
PHILADELPHIA, PA – OCTOBER 18: Philadelphia Eagles Offensive Tackle Jordan Mailata (68) looks on in the second half during the game between the Baltimore Ravens and Philadelphia Eagles on October 18, 2020 at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, PA. (Photo by Kyle Ross/Icon Sportswire)

Much like the Dolphin’s offensive line, the Eagles’ top group is among the best in football this year and protecting the quarterback. They’ll certainly have their work cut out for them against an underrated Dolphins pass rush led by Christian Wilkins.

With Vic Fangio now at the helm of the defense in Miami, the Dolphins are trying to find the right players to fit his overall scheme. It may not look at it from time to time due to how often their offense is putting up points, but Miami’s defense is very solid.

Philadelphia’s offensive line has their work cut out for them this week.

Linebackers vs. Mike McDaniel

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PHILADELPHIA, PA – AUGUST 02: Philadelphia Eagles linebacker Nakobe Dean (17) enters the field during training camp on August 2, 2022 at the Novacare Complex in Philadelphia, PA (Photo by John Jones/Icon Sportswire)

McDaniel is a disciple of the Kyle Shanahan tree in that offenses want to stretch the field to put a strain on the opposing team’s linebackers. Not the best type of game to see Nicholas Morrow, Zach Cunningham, and Nakobe Dean jockeying for playtime.

Even without Achane, Miami can still run with Raheem Mostert and (potentially) Jeff Wilson. This Dolphins offense is going to put a lot of strain on the Eagles linebacker rooms with motions and pre-snap reads. If the team isn’t prepared, they could be run out of their home building.

Tua Tagovailoa vs. Jalen Hurts

ATLANTA, GA – JANUARY 08: Alabama Crimson Tide quarterback Tua Tagovailoa (13) celebrates a touchdown with fellow teammate quarterback Jalen Hurts (2) during the College Football Playoff National Championship Game between the Alabama Crimson Tide and the Georgia Bulldogs on January 8, 2018 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, GA. The Alabama Crimson Tide won the game in overtime 26-23. (Photo by Todd Kirkland/Icon Sportswire)

It’s not going to matter that neither player will be competing against each other at the same time. Hurts and Tua are going to be connected for the rest of their lives after the latter took over for the Eagles starting quarterback in the National Championship Game when both were at Alabama.

Both quarterbacks can show in prime-time this week that they are the better quarterback and if Nick Saban was right or wrong to move away from Philadelphia’s QB1. It doesn’t seem fair, especially since this is the first time the two players are going up against each other, but this is how it works in a quarterback-driven league. The winner will have proven everyone right after one game and the loser will have people criticizing if he can even win at the highest level.

AP Photo/Matt Rourke